Sunday, 20 December 2015

Happy Christmas to all our followers

I stopped for a break and strolled around a conservation area - in the middle was this shelter shed and seeing it made me think of the Nativity scenes you may have seen in shops and people's homes at this time of the year.  I was on my last road trip for the year, heading for a small school's presentation night in Nyngan.  It was a great night. They talked of the work from the camp that was run in Nyngan with the Uniting Church's help, linking the private schools and growing and helping the community. I returned to my motel after the break and worked out that, for tomorrow's run to Walgett (which was just up the road from Nyngan by 3 3/4 hrs!), I would need an early start, even allowing for stops along the way. I had a tag along friend with me for this trip - someone to talk to, to point out different trees etc.  This was great fun plus good yarns about the school and setting up work for next year.
Kel checking out a tree - just loves it but a bit hot in the low 40's!
The School Presentation held in local hall cool .
This year has been a busy one, a year of connections affirming the need for our ministry. I am finding great acceptances from the community-based services eg "Hi Rev Phill. Can you come to such and such a day?"  I even got a Christmas card mailed to me that had been hand written.  I'm proud of the work of all of our Chaplains -  I hear "Pst David did this" or "Rev Jo and Lou called in".  Julie's work with the mental health handbook and the joint School Camp that the Uniting Church ran is held in high regard.  Our work is based on Matthew 25 "For as much as you do for them, you do for me".  I have been building connections with churches who are looking to do missions through giving, and with community to find those in need.  As I slow down for a holiday and to reunite with loved ones it will be good to see them in person, as  these school Celebration nights have replaced those event I miss for my own Grand children in Sydney.  Our ministry covers vast areas - at meetings we share the area we cover and people ask "how can you connect to those you only see for short periods of time?"  I feel God works on after we have left a place, and of course before we get somewhere too.  How do they know God loves them?  We come to their event, letting them know that we've come to see them, to participate and to help.
Hot pool with hoops at Burren Junction  
We do not put those we meet "through hoops" and thankfully admin is the same  - there is a process but it works well allowing quick responses to calls for help.  Also we don't use "hoops" for those we build community with - a word from the Holy Spirit leads us which, so many times, leads us to be in the right place at the right time.  Everywhere I go Jesus opens up conversations.

The sandstone caves between Narrabri and Coona in the Pilliga - lots of Gods art and help from those who first walked this area 1000's years ago
The caves again reminded me of that First Christmas - was it a shed or a cave?  But it also reminds me the colour of an Australian Christmas - the sandstone grays to pink grooves; cracks hanging together. That's what God call us to do, to be shaped by him; different colours hanging in and on but falling is a new start . Allow time for God to shape you, guide you, and allow yourself to be.  Sit and enjoy the Christ child and allow him to fill you with a sense of joy, hope, love and peace.

Thanks to all who support our work in prayer, and in other ways.  From Julie, Jo, Lou, David and me. And to you for reading!  A very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

Friday, 4 December 2015

The way back

On the Saturday of my last trip, I attended the Riverina Presbytery meeting in Finley.  Part of the day was going through the great work of the committee, which included reading their reports, and discussion about other aspects of the running of this presbytery.  We then had a light lunch which was provided by the good folk of Finley. I had helped with some of the prep work the night before in the kitchen - I was given the washing up to do.  In the afternoon we had the Grand Launch of the "Faith In a Basin Future", a project about sustaining vital and resilient communities in the southern Murray-Darling Basin for future generations.  This has grown out of the Murray-Daring Basin Group that has been meeting over the last couple of years - running forums and tours - but also joining with a number of like-minded groups such as Uniting and Catholic Earthcare.  There is an Advisory Group that have been working hard to get this multi-linked project up, aimed at young people between the ages of 16-35.  They call themselves "Community Action Teams" (CATS).  I'll put a contact link at the end of the blog so you can read for yourself . The sad part of the day was when the battery died on my camera which meant I ended up getting some videos but only one photo.  I'll try to borrow photos for this blog, from someone who was there.

Using my phone to search, I found a place to drink from  - a well on the side of the road near the Black Stump

The old phone is not working all that well but I did get to take a few shots here.  However if I had known what was happening up the road I would have kept going!  I arrived in Hillston for a picnic on the lawn under a tree. It was Julie's last day at church as she was getting ready to move to the inner suburbs of Bathurst.  I went into town and picked up some coffee and food for myself, then joined the crew in the shade of the trees.

Hillston manse 

The road from Hillston to Cobar - a picture say's it all! On and on it goes.
I hit Cobar ready for a quiet night with Jo and Lou but there was a big night for Paris on in the town's main park and Jo led the prayers for that city.  I know I have a friendship with Jo but it was wonderful and moving.  I was introduced to the Mayor who is a lovely lady.

Above is phone shots of the candle light service at Cobar.  Well done Jo!  Outside services are always hard with people spread throughout the park grounds.  I caught up with David and Julie the next day, as well as Jo and Lou.  Good conversation, looking at a number of issues relevant to all our work.

Last Sunday evening the Uniting Church in Narrabri hosted a combined church service, which was well-attended.  I was asked to speak on my work as Rural Chaplain and I can thankfully say that no-one fell asleep during my message!  Shalom Phill Matthews

Faith in a Basin Future project: FBF project Manager 


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